Pleats or No Pleats? This is a well sought out discussion in many menswear forums and style journals around the world. Therefore we think it is only fair if we join the battle, giving this topic the spotlight it deserves. For the record, Pleats are absolutely dope and I wear pleats all the time. If there is a pajama manufacturer out there reading this, I would have pleats on my PJs too! Ok that was off topic…
A few years ago, acquiring pleats in your local retail store was utterly unsuccessful. No, it wasn’t your fault, people just didn’t have style those days. It’s ok now though… even if we do tend to see a growing number of white “FUCK YOU” socks around the pedestrian side walk. If you asked retailers and store owners where to get trousers with pleats, they would respond by saying that they were considered old fashioned and definitely not made for your physique, leave it for the bulkier guy. Whilst some of these points might have some truth to it, it is quite the opposite in fact.
First off, what are pleats? Pleats are nothing more than extra folds of fabric stitched to the front of the trouser. Italian’s might call this method of holding trousers together a “Travetto” and it is often times handmade by artisans. The excess fabric has a major advantage to flat front trousers, giving the wearer more comfort by extending the fabric on the trouser, allowing for more room in the seat and front area.
There are different kinds of pleats but the main difference is in which direction they are opening. This is something that the wearer decides for himself. Either he wears “forward pleats” where they are opening towards the crotch, or “reversed” which is the most common and opens towards the pockets of the trouser.
One can go for single, double and if you want to go all out, TRIPLE that shit!!! In all seriousness, single pleats are often preferred for a more casual trouser such as fresco or cotton chinos. Double pleats automatically means double the fabric and is considered more elegant, worn with suits in most occassions.
History of Pleats
-Classic Illustration of the roaring 40s, showing off a masculine style of wearing pleats, illustration by James Blah-
Pleats have had a checkered past, originating from skirts worn in battle in Ancient Greece later being embraced by the opposite sex as part of their clothing. Whilst most people consider pleats as a “vintage” resemblance, men have actually favored flat front trousers in the early 1920s. During the 1940s and 50s they had their major comeback where men fully embraced them in their trousers. Note, that these trousers often where fuller in width, with no break and most often then not, worn high rather close to the belly button. They were never bulky, but wider as men might be used to today. However, neverunflattering!
This however, was completely and utterly disregarded during the “ugly era” of the 1980s and 90s where pleated trousers were seen worn more on the hip, accentuating that area and making it bigger than it was. Trousers automatically looked old fashioned, too long and quite frankly, a size too big. One nation that is considered a master in the “slouch style” is the US of A.
As mentioned, the history was also shaped with some very bad parts. Today, the picture has turned, and brands have accepted pleats as they had never left. It was the men in the background however, those who appreciated classic menswear who never gave up on them, and showed them the way back to the light…so to speak.
When you go into a store today to look for pleated trousers, they are nothing like those in the 40s, full and high waist. However you will be nonetheless welcomed to one corner of the shop that gives you a wide range of colors, patterns and fits. You see, history has changed for the better!
Who Should Wear Pleats?
Due to the excess fabric directly below the natural waist, many men choose to go for more room in that area in order to achieve comfort and movement. Pleats therefore can do real miracles for example when sitting down and still look elegant in the overall silhouette.
Just from a necessity perspective, pleats are most often recommended for men who have some more weight in the mid section. This allows them to cover up and compliment their physique. The amount of fabric, especially if worn on the natural waist instead of on the hip, is more than enough to help supporting that area.
In case of my personal physique, I always struggle with traditional RTW trousers as they are far too tight. Pleats therefore make it easier to choose a size more comfortable for the upper leg and overall give you more room and additional fabric. Maybe a few of you can relate…
How Should You Wear Pleats?
-Wishing the prices of trousers were the same today 😂 1949 Sears F/W-
It really depends on how you feel and if you are willing to add that amount of fabric to your body. Remember, it is just fabric pinched together and formed instead of sewn on. This also means, that if you grew out of your trousers (been there done that…) you can still go to your tailor and take the pleats out often giving you one whole size making you fit back into your beloved trousers.
If you are just starting out with pleats, go for less first, 1 should do for now. It is often quite surprising to see how much more fabric one single pleat gives you. So, to keep it simple go for one pleat in a more casual trouser. It will get a lot of wear and should not annoy you or estrange you from what you are used to normally.
Pleats should always accommodate a high rise in my opinion. All other blogs that have some kind of sartorial and formal menswear knowledge say this so, I will say it too! Flat front trousers of today are cut to be worn slightly lower on your hips whilst pleated trousers, depending on producer, tend to come high waisted (natural waistline). Worn so, can help with the afore mentioned disguise of unwanted areas.
Wear your pleated trousers with a cuff but NO BREAK. Especially when you wear light weight fabrics, the cuff allows to balance out the look and pull down any unnecessary fabric. Whilst, if you wear your trousers lower and you cause a break, the trousers automatically will look like they are too big and you risk looking like the fashion nightmare of the 80s and 90s. Bring your trousers to a tailor to make sure you get this sorted in order to get a clean look off. The rule here should be that the trousers, waited with a cuff should just about touch the top of the shoes.
After babbling about pleats the whole time and probably not wanting to hear that word again for a while, there is a beauty to pleats that not many trousers can pull off. Pleats can look good on anyone. What many people in the past believed to be worn only by the bigger bunch and by ill dressed people is quite the opposite today. In good proportion to your body, pleats can look great on anyone and I encourage you to try to wear them yourself. They compliment your physique, give you room around the waist and leg and when paired with a jacket or in many cases, a suit, they look very formal. Same goes for the opposite side by just throwing on a pair of loafers, rolling up your shirt sleeves up and enjoy the sun in the summer with a more laid back sartorial style. Don’t be shy to try pleats, the corporate world has already accepted weirder styles and combinations so a more classic approach might not hurt. The style is definitely here to stay!
Comment your thoughts below or send me an E-mail to discuss!
-Forward pleats with 5cm cuff and NO break-
(Pictures are taken from Pinterest and Instagram and belong to their respective owners. The flannel pleated trouser with the green tie is mine though)